Healthcare Ideas Stand out at 2019 Aarohan Social Innovation Awards

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Authors – Fareeha Arshad & Aman Sharma

The Infosys Foundation, a philanthropic organization established by Infosys, recently announced the winners of the 2019 Aarohan Social Innovation Awards. The second edition of the awards honored select few individuals and the NGOs from a pool of 1,700 applicants who have created unique and impactful solutions for different social issues faced by millions in our country.

2019 Aarohan Social Innovation Awards were aimed at discovering talented minds that have the potential to help the underprivileged and to contribute to the development of our country across four categories: Healthcare, Rural Development, Destitute care, and Sustainability. 

There were two award categories: five teams won the Gold award and a prize amount of INR2,000,000 each, and five teams received the Silver award and INR1,000,000 each. The award winners were also offered an eight-week residential mentorship program, at the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad where they will get to share their innovations and encourage other minds there to contribute too. 

Gold Winners at 2019 Aarohan Social Innovation Awards

Dr. Binita S. Tunga & Dr. Rashbehari Tunga – Detection device for mosquito-borne diseases

We live in an age of technological advancement, but mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue, malaria, chikungunya affect millions of Indians every year. Undetected disease symptoms for a long period or improper early-diagnosis along with undetected co-infections have been responsible for fatality in most cases. The similarity in symptoms among these three diseases along with a lack of proper testing facilities often leads to an inaccurate diagnosis. 

Dr. Binita S Tunga and Dr. Rashbehari Tunga of Bengaluru provided a solution to this issue. The IIT Kharagpur alumni have created an affordable and user-friendly device called ‘ASSURED’, which is able to detect dengue, malaria, and chikungunya accurately in the initial phases of the disease. This device is also highly sensitive and 100% specific, thereby identifying the disease accurately and can detect co-infections easily.

Portable device to detect anemia by Partha Pratim Das Mahapatra

Despite 73 years of independence, India shares the highest-burden of global cases of anemia. Poverty and improper diet are the primary reasons for 50% of the Indian population being affected by this deficiency disease, the majority being women and children. Liver diseases are also prevalent due to poor sanitation facilities. The rural mindset of a curative healthcare approach rather than preventive further adds strain on the primary health centers.

Since Partha Pratim Das Mahapatra belongs to a lower-middle-class family in Bengal, he was motivated to solve the simplest of healthcare problems by early detection and prevention of these diseases. Mahapatra, the Founder & CEO at EzeRx Health, developed a handheld device that is able to measure various components of blood accurately. It is a safe, portable and a user-friendly device that does not require the user to draw any blood and gives both quantitative as well as qualitative analysis within a second. Measurement of all three blood components, i.e., bilirubin, hemoglobin, and oxygen saturation occurs in a single step through this affordable and accessible approach, which helps in screening and early diagnosis of disorders.

TUMAAS innovative solution for rapid diagnosis of TB through urine

Tuberculosis is an age-old menace that affects about 2.6 million people of all ages in India, which we are still trying to get rid of. There are various reasons why this dreaded disease still haunts our country, despite various medical advances such as delayed diagnosis, expensive drugs, non-compliance to the year-long drug regimen and the subsequent development of drug resistance. The conventional tests for diagnosis are costly, time-consuming and require blood or sputum samples which further hamper the cause.

Committed to eradicating tuberculosis by 2025, the Mumbai-based Foundation for Tuberculosis Malnutrition & AIDS (TUMAAS) has developed a device that unlike the conventional methodologies of TB diagnosis, can allow rapid testing through urine. This novel non-invasive TB testing device is user-friendly, highly sensitive, inexpensive. This non-invasive test ensures early diagnosis to be carried out anywhere across India and limits exposure to the disease for thousands of lives.

Ramalingam PL innovates affordable standing wheelchair

Individuals who suffer from spinal cord injuries are often deprived of an ability to stand. Such patients are recommended standing physiotherapy twice a day for 45 minutes. While this is possible in a proper hospital set up with standing devices, such an exercise at home proves to be a challenge, especially when an electronic standing wheelchair costs lakhs of rupees. 

Ramalingam P L of Chennai has created a standing wheelchair to aid individuals with spinal cord injury and other related problems. This chair helps children and young individuals to stand using pneumatic springs that transition the wheelchair from sitting to standing position with just a normal arm pressure. With a price tag of INR15,000, it is affordable as well as easy to assemble, low on maintenance and designed so as to fit into an average Indian household. The wheelchair also has a self-locking system that enables an individual to make the frame standstill at a particular position and practice the standing therapy.  

Silver Winners at 2019 Aarohan Social Innovation Awards

Aum voice prosthesis by Dr. Vishal US Rao and Shashank Mahesh

Speech is a crucial aspect of communication but losing the ability to speak is one of the grave consequences of throat cancer. Voice prostheses have been available in the market but are sold at a steep price, which most survivors couldn’t afford.

Aum voice box’, created by Dr. Vishal US Rao and Shashank Mahesh is a blessing for such people who were bereft of this ability. This device is a voice prosthesis that helps patients regain their voice and be able to speak. The device is made from platinum-cured silicone, but it is cost-efficient and easily available for cancer patients irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds.

Aneesh Karma innovates MASC-KAFO for foot orthosis

There is a large portion of people in our country, especially the elders, who face multiple issues in terms of locomotion, making them dependent on others and hindering day-to-day activities. This may be caused due to many reasons including multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and polio. 

Aneesh Karma from Delhi has come up with a solution to this issue, which is a mechanically controlled knee ankle foot orthosis (MASC-KAFO). This automated device is designed to provide relief for those suffering from knee extensor weakness and enables them to perform activities like walking, cycling, etc. with ease. It also provides an automatic adjustment of locking and unlocking of the knee joints according to the patient’s requirement for greater stability. Unlike the other machines available in the market, his device costs INR 10,000 and hence is affordable for many.

Rajlakshmi Borthakur creates TJay wearable device for neuro disorders

Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder affecting people of all age groups. About 10 million people in India suffer from this disease with no relief due to meager access to healthcare, expensive diagnostic equipment and no definitive cure. Rajlakshmi Borthakur of Bengaluru came up with a solution to detect epilepsy before the seizure strikes, after experiencing her own son undergo unexpected seizures.

Rajlakshmi’s device called ‘TJay’ is an IoT/AI (Internet of Things/Artificial Intelligence) powered smart gloves, which predicts epileptic seizures before they actually strike. This device surely helps the user and healthcare professionals to make a faster data-driven diagnosis. This device is easy to carry, inexpensive and has a remote monitoring capability, making it an ideal companion for people with epileptic issues.

Nitesh Kumar Jangir innovates Saans: a low-cost newborn breathing support system 

About 160,000 newborn babies lose their lives to breathing difficulties such as infant respiratory distress syndrome, especially premature babies. According to the WHO, this can be prevented by breathing intervention known as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. However, these machines require additional infrastructural apparatus in health centers, which are available only at urban-based hospitals in India. 

Hailing from Bengaluru, Nitesh Kumar Jangir came up with the idea of ‘Saans’, which is a much cheaper breathing support machine. It is the world’s only neonatal breathing support system that does not require electricity and can function in any hospital or transport like ambulances. It is affordable, doesn’t require any special setup and has a patented manual mode, hence an untrained person can also use it.

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